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I have just taken over responsibility for administering a garden center's website and marketing. The website is new (and if I'm honest, not that good) but they had it built just before I started here.

We have spent a good £200 on adwords so far, and having analysed the Analytics, we are getting good click-throughs, but a very high number of drop-offs once they hit the product pages.

It occurs to me that the quality of the images of the plants is rather poor (done on a point and shoot by the nursery staff) which I think may be one major reason for so many people leaving the site without buying (remember, being Adwords, these people are actively shopping for "House plants" or "Office plants")

So the basic question is, how best can I shoot various house and office plants? These are usually tall plants, i.e. over a meter tall.

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2 Answers 2

up vote 6 down vote accepted

Place the plants in an office/house settings (that is, an area that looks like a typical office) near a big window that doesn't get direct sunlight - this will 1. let the visitor visualize the plant at the office and 2. give you beautiful soft light.

Clean and arrange the plant and background before shooting, turn the plant to see it's good side, put it in a nice looking flowerpot, clean it (yes, I said clean twice, it's important) and don't leave anything in the picture that doesn't belong.

For the plant "full-length" shot select an aperture that is small enough to make the entire plant sharp but wide enough to get the background just slightly out of focus (remember, you want it to be recognizable as an office).

For each full-length picture add some detail shots, a small image of a large plant will always look boring, add some flower pictures (or whatever is unique or good looking for that plant) - those should be typical flower shot, very small DOF, maybe macro shots.

Shoot in RAW, make sure your white balance is correct and edit every photo to make it look good (just a little levels, curves and color adjustment) - but don't over do it - the picture should still look exactly like the real plant, you don't want to deceive the customers).

But, before you start swapping photos (it's at the end of the answer because it's not photography related) make absolutely sure the visitors adwords is sending you are really potential customers (If you are a UK company make sure they aren't from India or something, check they didn't get from an unrelated keyword because od broad match, etc.) - I personally had a really bad experience with the traffic quality adwords used to send to my site.

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First, select the best specimens and make sure they are meticulously clean. You want the supermodels of the plant world, and like any model, hair and makeup matters. Any defects that are present should be tiny or facing the back.

In general, you'd probably want natural-looking lighting, which will mean something middling soft (you want some specularity and shape, so flat lighting is out) at a relatively high angle, as far from the plant as you can get it to minimise fall-off, and to camera left (or right, depending on the setting; I'll get to that in a bit). Along with the key, you'll want a very soft fill (a large parabolic umbrella, a v-flat or a whitish wall would do nicely). I wouldn't use natural light unless there is enough window area to provide for reflector fill and the windows are tall enough to provide a substantial downward angle of light. You will almost certainly want to use a polarizer to get good saturation in the leaves/fronds, and sometimes in the bark. Indoor plants tend to be waxy varieties, so you can expect a lot of diffuse polarized reflection from a layer above the colour.

As Nir pointed out while I was typing, you probably want images of the plants in context. There should be something that can be used as a size reference at least partially in frame, whether that be a piece of furniture or a bit of wainscotting. If you don't have suitable locations, it's easy enough to create one from a few 2x2s and a couple of sheets of cheap luan plywood. A bit of paint or wallpaper and you have the corner of a room without the real constraints of typical home-sized overall dimensions and ceiling height. (Since these "walls" will be neither structural nor permanent, you can get away with used or imperfect materials; a bit of plaster will cover a multitude of sins. And you may find that having a couple or three portable walls in your studio that can be cheaply and easily redecorated can come in very handy.)

And yes, you will want detail shots to go with the context shots. The colours and textures are why people buy these things, so you want to emphasize the interesting bits. That will usually include the leaves, but may also include flowers, bark, thorns/needles, and so forth.

The photography, though, is only one part of the equation. Page design matters a lot too, so if the site is really bad (ransom note typography that includes Comic Sans in the mix, jarring and incongruous colours, or anything of that sort) you may want to address that as well as soon as possible. (Navigation, etc., might be able to wait if you're getting product-specific click-throughs and there's an obvious way for the user to get what they want.) If your photography says "Harrod's" but your design says "boot sale", people will assume the photos were taken from somewhere else. (If there is any fairness in the world, that should be a simple matter of changing the CSS to fix the worst of it. If the gods of the intarwebz are angry, you'll have inline styles created by a rich text editor to deal with.)

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